Among those arguing Monday before the Georgia Supreme Court will be attorneys making unusual cases for free speech—one for the Ku Klux Klan and another for an accused sexual exploiter of children on the Internet.
The high court will also be asked to consider tossing out Gov. Nathan Deal’s appointment of the three new judges for the Georgia Court of Appeals on the claim he violated the state Constitution.
The Klan dispute is over whether the KKK has the right to participate in the state’s Adopt-a-Highway cleanup program and have its name on a road sign. The white supremacist group sued the State Department of Transportation for denying it participation in the program, in which volunteers pick up litter four times a year on a one-mile-minimum stretch of highway.
Members of the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan submitted an application to Union County to adopt a portion of State Route 515 in North Georgia. They say a Union County commissioner first gave them trash bags and safety vests to wear to begin picking up trash. Later, they were instructed to apply to the DOT, which denied their request because of the group’s “long-rooted history of civil disturbance” and “potential for social unrest,” according to a summary from the Supreme Court’s public information officer. They sued the state in Fulton County, seeking the right to participate in the program and have their group’s name on a sign.
The state is appealing a Fulton County court ruling in favor of the Klan.
The state contends it has the protection of immunity and also disputes the Klan’s claim that the program is a forum protected by the constitutional right to freedom of speech.
The state is represented by Attorney General Sam Olens with lawyers in his office, including W. Wright Banks Jr., Julie Jacobs, Daniel Strowe and Brittany Bolton.
Attorneys for the Klan include Alan Begner, Cory Begner and Nora Benavidez.
In another claimed First Amendment case, a man charged with sexual exploitation of children through Internet contact will argue that his arrest violates his right to free speech and is therefore unconstitutional, according to the Supreme Court summary.
Jack Scott was indicted in Camden County, where a judge denied his challenge to the constitutionality of the state’s law against sexually explicit communication with children on the Internet and ordered him to stand trial. Scott is appealing that ruling, represented by Mark Bennett of Bennett & Bennett, Cris Schneider of the Schneider Law Firm and Jason Clark.
On the other side is Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson along with special assistant DAs Andrew Ekonomou, a private lawyer from Atlanta, and Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.
Amicus briefs have been filed in the state’s favor by the National Center of Sexual Exploitation and Civil Lawyers Against World Sex-Slavery.
The case of the three new Court of Appeals judges concerns Judges Brian Rickman, Nels Peterson and Amanda Mercier, who took office in January after the General Assembly added three new spots on the court. A group of citizens claims that the state Constitution requires that newly created Court of Appeals positions be filled by an election, and that the law used to create their positions is void. The challengers include: John Clark, Athens attorney Ivory Kenneth Dious, Statesboro attorney and Georgia NAACP President Francys Johnson Jr., Henry Ficklin and Darryl Momon. Their attorney is Wayne Kendall. They are appealing the Supreme Court’s own 2015 ruling denying their petition to declare the statute unconstitutional.
The state is defended in the case by the attorney general’s office, including Dennis Dunn, Russell Willard and Susan Haynes.
In another case, DeKalb County police officer Frank Kliesrath and others are defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the parents of a man who died after being tased by the officers at least six times, according to the court summary.
Audrecas Davis was found suffering convulsions in one of the rooms of a motel. Medical and fire rescue personnel called police for help because they were unable to move the man, who was 6 foot, 6 inches tall and weighed 445 pounds. His parents contend he was suffering from a medical emergency and could not understand or respond to commands to allow himself to be placed on a stretcher. He was tased repeatedly in the process until he was finally forced face-down onto a stretcher. He was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
The officers are appealing a DeKalb County court ruling that they must face trial and are claiming immunity. They are represented by Laura Johnson and Terri Gordon from the county attorney’s office.
The Davis family is represented by Darren Summerville, Angela Fox, Lance Lourie and Stephen Chance.
In two other cases Monday, a man convicted of cutting his girlfriend’s throat twice will ask the court to combine his two sentences into one. Another appeal will focus on whether campus police officers have the authority to make an arrest off college property.